Expanding on the themes raised at the N&N-PoKS workshop in October 2018 and conference in May 2019 at University College Dublin, this volume interrogates the medieval manuscript book as a dynamic, constantly changing object, entangled in intellectual and cultural networks, constructed and deconstructed by different people, and transmuting in both form and meaning over time. By considering manuscripts not as static, permanently bound and delimited, but rather as bodies of evidence for the layered relationships between texts and their material supports, we gain a clearer view of medieval manuscript culture as driven by the agency and intellectual exchange of the people behind it. This volume therefore investigates early medieval Western European manuscripts as entangled objects, focusing on the connections between knowledge selection, material representation and scribal agency.
The complex road from selecting a text in the early Middle Ages to producing a copy of it in a book is still not well understood, yet it is the key to the historical context of medieval manuscripts. The practice of knowledge selection consisted of three key stages: the intellectual selection of the textual content of manuscript collections; the pragmatic action of arranging the textual content in a draft form by authors or editors; and the material representation and aesthetic exposition of texts in manuscripts. These stages were part of a linear development, but also exercised reciprocal influence upon one another. By tracing this process in surviving manuscript collections, we can better understand in what practical ways knowledge was encoded and how these often innovative and experimental practices contributed to the emergence and consolidation of intellectual and scribal traditions. This has important implications for how we understand education, reform, and the exercise of power in the early Middle Ages.